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Did you know?
In Minnesota:
• 13,100 people are homeless.
• Children and youth ages 21 and younger make up 46 percent of the homeless population.
• 1,151 of those youth are on their own.
• 81 percent of homeless families are headed by single-parent women.
Source: 2012 Minnesota Homeless Study, Wilder Research of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation; www.wilder.org

by Kathy Magnuson

Xion is one woman and she is everywoman. She could be you. She is resourceful, resilient, determined-and she became homeless.

Shirjae, her granddaughter, is one girl and she is every girl. She could be your daughter or your granddaughter. As her doting grandmother describes her, "She is a good little girl. She is so bright and energetic. There are not enough hours in the day for her to do everything she wants to do."

No one plans to become homeless. It can happen to anyone. Xion traces her route to homelessness to 2007, when she divorced and moved out of her longtime family home. She moved into an apartment with her daughter; then Xion's godmother became terminally ill, so she moved in with her to be a caregiver.

When her godmother died, Xion could not afford to stay there alone. She stayed with her daughter and her granddaughter until "things went downhill," leading to Xion becoming custodian of her granddaughter. The two lived with her sister-in-law for a while, but when she moved to Texas, Xion and Shirjae became homeless.

With more than half of her paycheck going to child care, Xion could not afford to take care of both of them. The next step for Xion and Shirjae was a homeless shelter. "When we first got there I was sad a lot, depressed a lot. I thought, 'Oh, my god, I can't believe I have this baby in this situation,'" Xion said.

"It is a hard decision to move your family into a shelter. You feel like you failed. You can think this is the end of the world for you. I had to think about that I was protecting Shirjae," Xion said.

But over the course of seven months, she plugged into resources in addition to housing that were provided at the shelter: legal and employment aid, financial classes, peer support. She met other grandmothers there with grandchildren, and they shared their experiences of raising their children and their grandchildren.

"They helped out so much there. Everyone was wonderful. I still stay in contact with everyone there. They helped me to get back on track and be self-sufficient. I want to give back to this community."

In the shelter she won a lottery for a group residential housing program with rent support. "We were blessed to be selected," she said. Xion and Shirjae have been in their new home for four months.

And how are the grandmother and granddaughter doing together? "We are a team. We get along really well. We will be fine."

Learn more / Get involved:
The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless is overwhelmed with volunteers at Thanksgiving and Christmas-and underwhelmed much of the rest of the year. Consider celebrating a birthday, graduation, a day that ends in "y," the first day of your vacation or Mother's Day by volunteering.
Sign up for their Facebook and Twitter notices of immediate calls to action at www.mnhomelesscoalition.org/
Learn about the Homes for All campaign www.mnhomelesscoalition.org/campaigns/homes-for-all/
Hands on Twin Cities can match you with housing volunteer opportunities near you www.handsontwincities.org
Donate supplies, host an event, tutor, prepare meals or host a homeless youth through Avenues for Youth www.avenuesforyouth.org/makeadifference.html

Where do you see women connecting and making change in your world? Send me your story, magnuson@womenspress.com


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